overall cost of production is lower and manufacturing speed is increased. AM also opens the opportunity for design engineers to experiment with material structures to improve the integrity of components. The technique makes new designs possible, as more complex components can be produced easily, and it’s easier to produce components with mesh or lattice structures. This means that designers can incorporate these structures into component design, allowing the product to possess the same strength and sturdiness using less material, in turn reducing total weight. With these factors in mind, it’s no surprise that a 2018 report by the Aerospace Technology Institute estimated that 35% of the total AM market will be driven by the aerospace and automotive industries.

NATURAL SELECTION For sectors such as transport, where poor material selection can lead to or exacerbate serious incidents, the choice of materials is critical. And for AM, the source of these materials is also an important consideration. For example, a 3D printed metal component for aircraft might experience limited density due to porosity, which can lead to cracking and material fatigue. This can occur due to the AM process itself, but it is also symptomatic of a poor-quality metal powder feedstock introducing gas pockets into the process. Sourcing metal 3D printing powders from reputable suppliers, via platforms (such as Matmatch’s materials database) that partner only with reliable material suppliers, solves this issue. Comprehensive materials databases such as these also give transport design engineers a greater understanding of the many materials available for AM. Although many people think of polymer fi laments as the primary choice, metal — of all types, from stainless steel and aluminium to cobalt and titanium — and ceramic powders are also increasingly widely used. This fl exibility of material types means

that design engineers can additively manufacture many of the components required for various modes of transport. For cars, a brake caliper could be 3D printed using a titanium powder, which would off er a lightweight and high strength product ideal for this application.


Alongside this, the pistons for the caliper could be 3D printed from phenolic resin to provide durable, corrosion-resistant properties. We’re also increasingly seeing

alloy materials appear in AM-suitable feedstock forms, providing further opportunities for 3D printing in transport engineering. Materials such as VDM Metals’ Powder 625 or Deutsche Edelstahlwerke’s Printdur Ni625, both of which are powdered nickel-chromium-molybdenum alloy for 3D printing, exhibit enhanced corrosion resistance due to their composition, making the alloys a good fi t for components on ships and seafaring vehicles. And as the range of materials

expands, we see a similar trend towards sustainable and ‘green’ materials

emerging, as can be found in the wider materials sector.

SUSTAINABILITY AHEAD Additive manufacturing as a process is more effi cient and less wasteful than conventional, subtractive manufacturing. Not only does the process itself use less raw material as it can be more precise, but the technique is also ypically used to produce parts to specifi c demand, eff ectively eliminating the need for excess production. This subsequently lowers the energy usage of the process. In fact, a 2014 study by Gebler, Uiterkamp and Visser stated that 3D printing has the potential to reduce the total primary energy supply

by 2.54–9.30 exajoules, and lower CO2 emissions by up to 525.5 megatonnes by 2025.

Small scale success

Nanofabrica is reporting good results with its micron- level resolution AM. The Israeli company has been making items on centimetre-sized parts with thousands of components, targeting the optical industry where extremely small, light and fl at properties are useful. Items such as connectors for optical fi bres, fi bre optic ferrules and other optical elements like lenses and prisms are currently being created. The company claims

the alternative, injection moulding, is inferior as 3D printing eliminates the need for tooling. Jon Donner, CEO of Nanofabrica says, “Additive manufacturing has many innate advantages as a production tool, among which are the fact that it allows designers to think out of the box when it comes to apparent design restrictions, and of course multiple design iterations can be made speedily to stimulate the creation of

This jig for coupling optical fi bres has holes 100 microns across

innovative end products. But until the launch of Nanofabrica’s micro AM production technology, the requirements from the micro optics sector in terms of ultra-precision and repeatable resolution and surface fi nish were impossible to achieve through the use of 3D printing. Using Nanofabrica’s platform, OEMs can now in a single process create polymer-based products with complexity and features such as freeform surfaces that would either be impossible using conventional manufacturing technologies, or be prohibitive in terms of time and cost.”

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